I made three observations around Friday’s match in Kingston. A huge reduction in the amount of media coverage, a loss of patience by the football community with AFC and an unusual intervention by the EFL following the child like antics of AFC.
It also became apparent that there is an ignorance about the background to the move, with some choosing to accept at face value the self serving doctrine spun by AFC Kingston.
The story started as far back as 1980 when Wimbledon encountered issues with Merton Council. Chairman Ron Noades claimed that the Borough did not want the club and that he was involved in talks to take Wimbledon to Milton Keynes.
MK City Football Club (formerly Bletchley Town) was the first representative club to play using the name Milton Keynes. In 1980 they won the final of the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup in front of a crowd of over 2,000.
At the time that Noades was engaged in talks concerning a move to Milton Keynes, he was voted onto the board of MK City FC together with fellow Wimbledon directors Bernie Coleman, Jimmy Rose and… Sam Hammam.
Noades said at the time; “Unless the pre-emption is sorted out there is no future for us at Plough Lane. Milton Keynes has long term potential. It can support a multi-purpose stadium, the potential is there”
These facts are covered in a book called The Dons in the League 1977-1982 – Author: Stephen Crabtree in April 1996. Published by Buckingham Sporting and Leisure Press. ISBN 0860235580.
Noades subsequently abandoned plans for the move and MK City FC sadly folded a few years later. The irony of this will not be lost on Dons fans…
Meanwhile, all was not well at Plough Lane.
At the end of the 1990-91 season and in the context of the Taylor Report, then Chairman Sam Hammam decided that Plough Lane was no longer fit for purpose and agreed a ground-share some 7 miles across South London at Crystal Palace. A temporary move that lasted over 10 years.
Alarm bells started to sound during a meeting of the board on the 11th October 1993, when Sam Hammam announced to those present that the club was £1.5million in the red and leaking money faster than a corrupt banker at Lehmans during black Monday.
Fast forward to 22nd February 1996 and a crisis meeting in the board room. The situation was now critical and Hammam had failed to secure the support of Merton Council or address the financial situation. He announced that he was in talks about a move to Wales or Ireland.
On 14th January 2000, Hammam wrote a letter to the new Norwegian owners of Wimbledon FC entitled “The Wimbledon we Have”. He specifically pointed to the lack of support from fans and the lack of a stadium. He stated that Wimbledon FC had been invited for discussions about a move by Luton, Watford, Birmingham, West Bromwich Albion, Portsmouth, Brighton and Hull (as well as Milton Keynes).
On 14th May 2000, the worst fears of Sam Hammam were realised and the Wombles were relegated from the Premier League. Average gates dropped to 7,800 in the Championship and crisis turned into terminal decline.
Milton Keynes was back on the agenda.
On 19th January 2001 Peter Winkelman wrote to MK Council and declared that he stood ready to provide a home for crisis hit Wimbledon. He told them that his role was to provide a stadium should the board of Wimbledon decide to move to Milton Keynes.
On 2nd August 2001, Wimbledon FC announced their intention to move to Milton Keynes.
On 16th August 2001 the Football League denied permission for the move and 2 weeks later referred the case for arbitration. The judicially appointed arbitration panel found that the EFL decision was legally flawed and their processes unfair.
As a result of this the EFL referred the matter to an independent FA Commission who decided to grant approval for the move on 28th May 2002.
The FA Commission did not order the move – it simply “sanctioned” the move. Pete Winkelman was not in control of Wimbledon FC.
Despite this, less than 24 hours after the FA Commission decision, WISA (Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association) registered the domain name afcwimbledon.com. A further 24 hours later, the domain name afcwimbledon.co.uk was registered.
On the same day WISA held a meeting during which members expressed concerns that the creation of a new club was defeatist and premature. But despite this, WISA voted to establish a new club and also voted not to attend any more games of Wimbledon FC.
This vote was carried onto the terraces. Attendances plummeted adding to an already dire predicament and in June 2003 the club entered administration with debts of over £35 million.
The club came within 3 weeks of going out of business.
There was only one rescue bid and it came from a consortium headed by Pete Winkelman. And the rest as they say is history.
So in summary…
The move to Milton Keynes was initially considered by Wimbledon FC in 1980
Four directors of Wimbledon FC were voted onto the board of MK City which subsequently folded
The decision to uproot Wimbledon FC from Merton was taken by Sam Hammam
Wimbledon FC had left Merton over 10 years prior to the move to MK
The first proposal to move out of London was made by Sam Hammam – to Ireland
The decision to move to Milton Keynes was made by the board of Wimbledon FC
The decision of the FA Commission was not binding
Despite this WISA turned its back on Wimbledon FC and voted to form a new club
When Wimbledon FC went into administration with debts of £35 million, no fan group or body associated to Wimbledon FC made a rescue bid
Next time a football fan tries to re-write history, gently point out the Facts of the Move. Wimbledon was the sole creator of its own destiny. The fans turned their backs on a debt ridden, homeless club in favour of a shiny new model which they would have total control of. In doing so, they signed the death warrant of Wimbledon FC. Without the intervention of Peter Winkelman the club would have died.
But moving on….
Slowly but surely Robbie Neilson is getting his message across. Fans are starting to understand that his style of play is more complex than that championed by his predecessor and the players are becoming enthused and are improving as a team. Three wins in four matches bears testament to that.
But what is making the difference?
I notice two stats from the early matches this season. The Dons had decent amounts of possession during matches, but the shots on target ratio was extremely poor. By way of example…
MK Dons v Wigan – Dons had 1 shot on target from 6 attempts (16%)
Blackpool v MK Dons – Dons had 2 shots on target from 13 attempts (15%)
MK Dons v Gillingham – Dons had 5 shots on target from 15 attempts (33%)
Contrast that with the stats from the last 3 matches:
Peterborough v MK Dons – Dons again had 7 shots on target from 12 attempts (58%)
MK Dons v Rochdale – Dons with 7 shots on target from 12 attempts (58%)
AFC v MK Dons – Dons had 5 shots on target from 6 attempts (83%)
Personally I believe that Osman Sow has been extremely influential in this change. His movement off the ball, strength on the ball, physical presence and accurate passing has created space for others like Ariyibi and Seager to exploit.
Another stat worthy of mention is the timing of the first goal conceded by the Dons. Either early in matches or either side of half time. Again some examples for you…
Wigan (7 minutes prior to half time)
Blackpool (6 minutes into the match)
Blackburn (2 minutes into the match)
Oxford (8 minutes into the match)
Peterborough (2 minutes into the 2nd half)
Rochdale (8 minutes into the match)
Having watched the majority of the matches and now identified these stats, my assessment is that the Dons have lacked concentration at the start of matches and either side of half time. There was a distinct change at Wimbledon where they came out hard and fast, putting them on the front foot for a change.
Two fairly simple stats, but valid nevertheless. It doesn’t need a sports analyst to work out that the more shots on target you have the more likely to score. And if you concede a goal in the first 10 minutes of a match, you’ve just made your life a lot harder. The fans go quiet, heads go down and the opposition start with confidence.
But these stats are improving… in line with our results.
Callum Brittain has been a revelation so far this season. Born in Milton Keynes on 12th March 1998 he is another product of the Dons academy. On 2nd May 2016 he joined an Icelandic side where he made 8 appearances, impressing them with his ability.
The youngster made the breakthrough into the senior side following the arrival of Robbie Neilson and featured in 7 matches at the end of last season. During those appearances the Dons only lost 1 league match and conceded just 4 goals.
With the surprise departures of Ben Tilney and George Baldock, Callum saw his position in the squad change and once again he’s been a regular this season. So far he has played in 7 matches this season, and during that time the Dons have again only lost 1 league match.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these academy products have a human side and are just local lads taking advantage of the Dons to break into professional football.
One fan, who grew up in the same area as Callum reflects how he used to go round to his house before school in the morning and watch Peppa Pig at 8am on Channel 5. As most lads do, they used to play football in the street and Callum was usually put in goal with the other lads pretending to be Dons players.
I’m sure Brittain won’t thank me for mentioning him in the same breath as Peppa Pig, but it’s perhaps a reminder to us not to take these lads for granted and to remember that they’re from our town and have real life stories to tell. He really is another who is “one of our own”.
Anyway, back to Stadium MK tonight and a match against The Cobblers. Here’s hoping for another win. See you there! COYD